Fayette County

Lexington dentists offer free services to the needy

Dr. John Weaver, left, and dental assistant Carrie Humble worked on Joanne Ross during a day of free dental care at Commonwealth Smiles in Lexington.
Dr. John Weaver, left, and dental assistant Carrie Humble worked on Joanne Ross during a day of free dental care at Commonwealth Smiles in Lexington. Herald-Leader

The pain had been excruciating for the last few months. With it came headaches, restless nights and a lack of appetite. It made every body part ache until the hurt became the “normal” feeling.

Bad teeth will do that, but John Reed, 50, of Irvine, finally found relief.

The retired heavy equipment operator was one of about 60 people without dental insurance who jammed into two Lexington dental offices Saturday seeking free care for their teeth.

Some arrived as early as 4:30 a.m. to participate in a free dental day provided by about 25 area dentists, hygienists and assistants.

The service was the idea of Anna L. Taylor, executive director of the non-profit Surgery on Sunday that provides free outpatient surgeries for the working poor, and Dr. Jessica Kress, a dentist with Commonwealth Smiles off Nicholasville Road near Baptist Health Lexington.

The two members of the same Rotary Club talked about a free dental day in Lexington and organized Saturday’s service at Kress’s office and the nearby office of Lange, Rider and Reynolds. They both said they hope more such days will occur.

Taylor said the free service was publicized on social media, and “that has brought out this big crowd.”

“I’m doing this because there is a huge need in our community for this type of service,” Kress said Saturday while helping patients.

She said she recruited nine dentists to volunteer between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Dr. Steve Rider said all employees in his office volunteered to work.

“The whole team is here, and I am proud of them. This is a wonderful opportunity for us all to give back to the community,” he said.

The free services include fillings, cleanings and minor extractions. Listerine provided free bags for each patient filled with dental products such as mouthwash rinse and floss, said Listerine representative Megan Eads.

Adults who needed follow-up work were referred to the dental clinic Mission Lexington; those 17 and younger were referred to Baby Health Services.

Kress noted that more than 700 Fayette County residents are on waiting lists for local free dental clinics.

Dental work can be expensive. A regular extraction can cost $150 to $300, and a dental X-ray runs at least $100, Kress said.

Reed needed five teeth pulled Saturday. They were badly infected, Kress said.

Kress told Reed he needed more removed, but the five immediate extractions would address the pain and he would be referred for follow-up care.

“Thank God,” he said when told relief was on the way.

Joanne Ross of Lexington was second in line early Saturday. Dr. John Weaver and dental assistant Carrie Humble gave her a filling, fixed a chipped tooth and adjusted her dentures.

Ross said she was on Medicare and didn’t have dental insurance.

“This is a great day for me,” she said.